Tibet, lamas in patched robe

13th century, Tibet, gilt metal with copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

13th century, Tibet, gilt metal with copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Sculptures of Tibetan teachers often depict them with a patched robe over their vest. The small patch design above was made with copper and silver inlay. The face has been painted with cold gold and pigments.

14th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy with copper and silver inlay, photo by Christie's.

14th century, Tibet, lama, bronze with copper and silver inlay, photo by Christie’s.

Usually, the hem of the undergarment is also inlaid with the same metal(s) to match the robe.

15th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

15th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

From the 15th century onwards, most sculptures are fire-gilt and the patches are delineated with overlaid strips of metal before the gilding process.

14th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

16th century (or earlier),  Southern Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

As the centuries go by the patches are larger. The above are marked with deep grooves. (We will note how the tail end of the garment is beautifully arranged into a scallop shape over the lotus base).

15th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy and silver inlay, photo by Koller.

15th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy and silver, photo by Koller.

Sometimes, the patches are delineated with silver strands over the copper alloy.

16th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy with copper inlay

16th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On this masterpiece, the copper-inlaid hem is decorated with an incised zig-zag pattern. Copper has also been inlaid between the patches.

16th century, Tibet, lama, bronze with copper inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

16th century, Tibet, lama, bronze with copper inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The term ‘inlay’ is often used when in fact one metal has been added over another, but the above sculpture is a clear case of copper inlay, which blends in with the copper alloy and leaves a smooth surface.

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